[This story of incredible bravery needs to be widely distributed. As we try to make sense of such a senseless cowardly act, it is well to remember such bravery by these incredible women]

Pakistanis for Gender Equality, December 18, 2014

As the nation mourns the Peshawar school attack, let us also commend the exemplary bravery shown by these women (amongst others) who gave their lives in the hopes of protecting Pakistan’s tomorrow. Who says women are weak? Can our leaders show this kind of resolve to save this country from the TTP barbarians? Let us not let their sacrifices be in vain.

1) Tahira Qazi. Her personal assistant says she had the opportunity to escape the school but instead chose to stay with the students. As the militants fired shots, she rushed from classroom to classroom, shouting at those inside to lock themselves in. She consoled, protected, and ushered many students to safety. She even phoned parents to come and collect their children. One source says, “the honourable principal was asked by the terrorists ‘where are the students and why are you hiding them?’ She replied: ‘Talk to me, I am their mother.’ The terrorists replied ‘Ok, you die first, in a miserable way.’ She was burnt and bullets were fired in her head directly.” (more…)

For those of us who grew up getting our history from Mr. Peabody and his sidekick Sherman, politics was more than fractured fairy tales and a talking Moose (that had obviously escaped the helicopter hunt of Sarah Palin). So if you want to know why the Middle East is so messed up today, forget about Romney’s comic speech on Monday; here is a cartoon that explains it all. Get in your Youtube Not-So-Wayback Machine and enjoy Mr. Peabody’s view on what really happened.

For the past week the American media has been fixated on an act of violence that has left six dead and wounded fourteen, including Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords. Last night President Obama, in a stirring and emotional speech at a memorial service for the victims, urged Americans not to use this tragedy as a staging ground for the usual politics of blame:

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

Beneath the brief aura of civility in this tragedy’s aftermath there lingers an ongoing current of uncivil rhetoric, fueled in large part by media pundits eager to gain an audience. The blame has already been assigned over and over again. In this particular case it appears that the killer, Jared Lee Loughner, was an emotionally disturbed individual who acted on his own. Thus, it is no surprise that a Tea Party icon like Kentucky’s newly elected senator Rand Paul would go on Fox News and remind us all: “But the weapons don’t kill people. It’s the individual that killed these people.”

It certainly is true that the Glock 9 mm pistol did not go off on its own, so obviously there is no need to punish the gun involved in this case, nor even the bullets used. The problem is that if we claim that guns don’t kill, we must also admit that guns don’t die either. (more…)

A report in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times is a chilling reminder of the utter absurdity of out-of-control sectarian violence in Afghanistan.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan —
A suicide bomber blew himself up Friday at a public bathhouse in southern Afghanistan that was filled with men washing themselves before the main prayers of the Muslim week. At least 17 were killed and 23 injured, provincial officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Spin Boldak, in Kandahar province. The district, a main crossing point to and from Pakistan, is a longtime nexus of drug and weapons smuggling. (more…)

August 9, 2010 cover of Time Magazine

As usual for the end of the week, my Time arrived yesterday. It seems a bit unusual that I should receive the August 9 issue a week early, but then Time is not always accurate. The cover photograph is startling, haunting, disturbing and an unfortunate example of sensationalized news reporting. I cannot help but compare this to the widely traveled National Geographic photograph of an Afghan woman. I have no objection to covering a human tragedy etched in the face of young Aisha, the 18 year old girl whose nose and ears were cut off by self-righteous extremists who practice a brand of Islam that would make the Prophet Muhammad roll over in his grave. But the cover’s prominent announcement of the article inside by Aryn Baker is in fact not the title of the article, nor the main message of the author. “What happens if we leave Afghanistan” is a lot more sensational than “Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban,” which is why it graces the cover. Tragedies, like sex scandals, sell. The issue for me is how they should be reported responsibly.

Afghan woman holding 1985 National Geographic issue with her picture on the cover


Photos juxtaposed on May 6 by the New York Post, tabloid journalism at its most blatant

Faisal Shahzad, not your typical terrorist: unless you think being a Pakistani Muslim makes you a typical terrorist. Anyone reading yesterday’s New York Post (Wednesday, May 5) and taking the blustered and bloated tabloid rhetoric seriously could easily make such an assumption. I do not, as a rule, read tabloids, although seeing what many others do read is a useful reality check from time to time. But on the train home from Manhattan yesterday there was a crumpled up newspaper under the train seat and at least 45 minutes to unwind. The cover was, for a change, not a pun. It might be called a revelation, as it read: “REVEALED: WHY HE DID IT. EXCLUSIVE. Revenge for US drone attacks on Taliban terrorists.” Six pages (and more) were devoted to the story, although there was little that I found exclusive in the shoddy news reporting and vengeful commentary by the tabloid’s stalking heads.

Let’s start with the cover and what the tabloid pictures for us. (more…)

At the start of one of my all-time favorite movies, The Ruling Class, actor Harry Andrews as the 13th earl of Gurney returns to his well-groomed estate to relax after a long day of waxing conservative in the House of Lords. While this film should be required viewing for the current British parliamentary campaign, my interest is in the way this revered judge and former soldier relaxes: by dressing in a ballet skirt and jumping off a stool with a silk noose around his neck. Last Friday the New York Times carried a story about Col. David Russell Williams, a Canadian commander of a major air base in the Afghanistan war. He is described as “once among Canada’s most successful military officers,” the automatic pilot for visiting dignitaries, including Prime Minister Harper. Why “once”? Because the colonel on the battlefront against those honor-killing Taliban appears to be a “serial sexual predator.”

Ottawa police arrested Colonel Williams last February in connection with two murders of women, two sexual assaults and numerous break-ins in the Ottawa area “most of which involved lurid sexual details.” (more…)

Iblis (the Devil) from The Book of Nativities (Kitâb al-Mawalid) by Abû Ma’shar, 15th Century.

by Suroosh Irfani, Daily Times (Pakistan), May 7, 2009

Jewish denial during the war is perilously instructive for Pakistan today: a country where the founding spirit of justice and democracy is blighted by falsehood and fear. Small wonder that last month, Prime Minister Gilani virtually ignored the seditious speech of Sufi Muhammad.

Noted Saudi novelist Turki al Hamad’s novel, Kharadib, has sold over 20,000 copies in the Arab world since publication in 1999. Al Hamad continues to live in the Saudi capital Riyadh, despite fatwas of Saudi clerics against him, and Al Qaeda branding him an apostate.

The reason? Hamad’s teenaged protagonist in the controversial novel dares to ponder the question of God and the devil.

King Abdullah, then the Crown Prince, reportedly offered Hamad bodyguards for his protection, while reputed Saudi scholar Sheikh Ali al Khudair, who initially censured Hamad, withdrew his fatwa in 2003.

The retraction suggests that the musings of Hamad’s protagonist on “religion, sex and politics, the three taboos in Saudi society” had triggered a rethink on an issue that Muslim luminaries like Jalaluddin Rumi (d.1273) had addressed, long before German writer Goethe cast the devil in new light in his epic poem Faust in the 19th century.

However, it remained for Allama Iqbal’s genius to bring together Goethe and Rumi in a discourse on the devil, burnishing wisdom of the past with his own insights on evil. The upshot of it all is a realisation that “evil is not mere darkness that vanishes when light arrives. This darkness has as positive an existence as light,” as Javed Iqbal, former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, notes in “Devil in the triangle of Rumi, Iqbal and Goethe” in Iqbal Review. (more…)

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